Student launches balloon, camera to stratosphere

Courtesy, Totino-Grace High School

Totino-Grace Engineering Institute student Jens Rataczak has spent a year preparing to do what he did on Sunday.

He sent a weather balloon aloft from the Fridley school with a data logging and tracking system and a GoPro camera, which proved — again — that earth is round, and that sometimes the farther you get away from it, the prettier it looks.

“The goal was to get the balloon to 100,000 feet but the final altitude reached was 107,363 feet, over 20 miles, before the balloon burst,” he said in a Totino-Grace press release. “I was able to track it for four hours, obtaining updates every few minutes. The balloon veered off the projected course before returning to the estimated path.”

It ended up in a cornfield in Glenwood, Wis.

“We had a fun encounter with the property owner who was really interested in hearing about the project after asking to collect it from the cornfield,” Rataczak said. “It was exciting to watch the GoPro footage and identify visual locations such as Lake Mille Lacs and the Mississippi River. Another interesting finding was the size of the balloon throughout the flight. It starting at a diameter of about 8 feet, and expanded to about 40 feet prior to bursting due to the decrease in atmospheric pressure.”

To orient yourself, Mille Lacs is clearly visible on the right in the first seconds of the video. When the balloon breaks, it appears to be showing the Mississippi River at the bottom left where the St. Croix joins.